Belmont – March 2019

Howard County Conservancy hosted a training session at Belmont for upcoming elementary school BioBlitzes last week. I hadn’t been to the location since January, so I looked around before going into the Carriage House for class. The plane trees (they are like sycamores but are a little different – have some seed balls in pairs rather than single) seemed full of seed balls. We’ve had quite a lot of wind and the fibers holding the balls to the tree look worn at this point. I wondered how long they would stay attached after I saw the zoomed image through my camera.

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It was sad to see the stump of the red maple they had to cut down recently. Evidently it lost a lot of big branches during some of the recent winds. The colors in the stump drew my attention. The tree was not extensively rotten but there were some insect holes. The stump would have to be sanded to count the rings. The tree had been struggling in recent years, but I always pointed it out because it had small branches low enough on its trunk for children to see the flowers and leaves.

It also had a root that was above the surface and been injured by mowers…but still survived.

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I almost always pointed out the red maple to contrast with the nearby sugar maple – which is still standing with some ivy growing on it. It was a good concept for student to think through – how the trees were alike and how they were different…both maples.

The class had an outdoor portion to try out the app and tablets the students would be using. I used the time to take a few more pictures. There were crocuses blooming in the grassy area near the mailboxes.

The wind had blown pine cones and sweet gum balls into the same area.

The pond still looked like it has all winter. The clouds had rolled in while we had been indoors. And this landscape shows the dimness of the day.

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I turned back to the view the manor house and notice a maple that no longer had its upper branches. One of the them was very rotten. But the tree is still blooming!

We headed up to the cemetery and I checked the hemlock. The tree looks like the treatment for wooly adelgid has worked. I tried an experimental shot with a cone highlighted…and blurry branches above and below.

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By the time I am at Belmont again – there will be even more signs of spring.

Tree Bud Project – Week 2

It’s Friday – so I am doing an update on the tree branches I brought inside a week ago. See the previous post here. All of them seem to be surviving in the vase of water. I’ve freshened the water every few days. All the pictures are with the 15x macro clip-on lens and my smartphone.

The cherry buds have opened into small white flowers! At first the buds just looked bigger.

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Two days later, the white tips showed beyond the green of the outer covering.

And the next morning the flowers were open! I took a picture of the back and front of the flowers.

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The plum is slower. Some of the buds have not changed at all and I am wondering if they were damaged by cold temperatures. Some look like they are larger. I hope they eventually will open.

The red maple has bloomed and is now drooping. They are wind fertilized…so won’t make seeds in the ‘windless’ house. At first, they looked very red – like little streamers from the bud.

Then the bigger structure grew.

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And now they seem to be drying out.

The tulip poplar has been changing a lot too. At first more buds opened.

Two days later all the buds were larger, and a tiny leaf had emerged from one of them.

Over the next few days other tiny leaves emerged and began to get larger. I noticed the tiny leaves while they were still folded inside the bud too. The bark of the twig seems to be a deeper color too.

I haven’t noticed any changes in the black walnut branch. If the buds do open it should be spectacular with so many buds on the tip of the branch.

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The sycamore buds haven’t changed much either although they seem to be a little larger and their color has shifted to green with some red overtones.

Stay tuned to next Friday for the next tree bud report!

Tree Bud Project – Week 1

I started a project to photograph tree buds this week by cutting small branches from trees in our yard: cherry, plum, red maple, tulip poplar, black walnut, and sycamore. Unfortunately, there were no branches low enough for me to reach on our oak.

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The plan is to bring the branches indoors (where it is warm) and monitor the buds – see how many of them would open indoors over the next few weeks. Once they do, I’ll check to see what is happening with the buds on the tree outdoors.

I took pictures of the buds with the 15x macro lens clipped to my smart phone…starting with the cherry. The buds are enlarging but still firmly closed. Our tree lags the blossoms down in DC around the tidal basin.

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The plum buds are still very small. They already show the pink color of the flowers. The tree usually blooms after the cherry.

The red maple twig is easy to identify - opposite twigs, red buds. I was surprised that there were so few branches with buds on the lower branches; the deer must be the culprits. It took a lot of looking to find a branch I could reach with buds.

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The tulip poplar already had a popped bud! The others on the branch were still closed. The leaf scars are interesting to notice too.

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The black walnut has a lot of buds at the tip of the branch. This tree was also heavily browsed by deer. The branch leaked sap as I was taking pictures. Hope is it OK with the water from the vase.

Finally – the sycamore buds are still tight. In a previous year, a sycamore bud on my indoor branch opened and a tiny leaf unfurled.

I’ll be posting about the leaf buds about once a week if there is action to report.

Icy Trees

Last week, we had some icy weather. It caused schools to close or start late. I was glad I could just stay at home and enjoy the scene through my office window. The zoom on my camera allowed me to get some pictures of the ice coating the vegetation. Many times, it looks like water droplets simply froze before they could fall to the ground. The sycamore had one last-season leaf catching the icy bits. The ice on the stems was coating the buds that looked enlarged…maybe getting ready for spring.

The remnants of a seed head from last summer collected flatter panes of ice.

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The evergreen bushes are sometimes damaged by the ice because their leaves hold so much of it. It seems that ours all came through the ordeal without any breakage.

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The Thundercloud Plum tree is showing its color even in the winter. Once the ice is gone, I’ll have to check to see if there are any split branches; the tree has had problems in previous ice storms. This time we were fortunate that it was relatively calm; ice followed by wind is what causes most breakage.

The next day I noticed that the icicles on the sycamore were quite a bit longer.

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 The red maple had very red buds. Hopefully the ice protected them rather than destroying.

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The shelf fungus on a tulip poplar back in the forest supported a mini ice flow

The trees that had the hardest time were the pines. Each needle became encased in ice. It remined me of art glass. The pines in our neighbors’ yards survived without breakage but I noticed as I drove to my errands the next day that there were some pines that did not fare as well. There were some significant branches that were ripped from trees along my route. Fortunately, there were enough people that had been out before me and all the branches were moved off the roadway.

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Birding Near Titusville

After the long field trip to Central Florida, the next day we had a shorter one to hot spots around Titusville. It felt a lot easier getting to a 6:30 AM bus than the 5 AM bus the previous day. The first stop was Hatbill Park…just as the sun was coming up.

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The Grackles were the first birds we noticed…because they were noisily welcoming the day.

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As the light got better there were other birds to notice: a Little Blue Heron fishing in the shallows.

A Red-shouldered Hawk almost too far away to photograph but showing its very distinctive tail as it flew away.

There was an Eastern Phoebe and

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Savannah Sparrow to represent smaller birds.

Some Brown Pelicans flew over the lake.

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We headed off to or next stop – a walk back into the woods. There were very large Live Oaks with Spanish moss, resurrection fern, and ghost orchids and

Quite a few American Robins. Some robins stick around in Maryland but some push southward and accumulate in Florida.

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There was a Red-Bellied Woodpecker that showed himself at just about every angle. They do have a little red on their bellies!

Florida has red maples just as we do in Maryland although the ones in Florida had formed their samaras months in advance of our trees.

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Ball Moss – a relative of Spanish moss (both Bromeliads rather than mosses) – was growing in some of the trees. It looks tidy rather than raggedy like the Spanish Moss.

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The Sabal Palmettos had ferns growing in their boots (the stubs of branches along the trunk). One of the other field trip participants identified it as a gold foot fern.

An Eastern Phoebe sat around long enough to be photographed here too.

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One stop was a neighborhood pond that has a population of resident Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks. They were noisy. Hopefully they quiet down at dusk.

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There were White Ibis in the pond as well. They seemed even more acclimated to people.

The next stop was a neighborhood park where there was a resident pair of Sandhill Cranes.

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Then we headed off to Dixie Crossroads (restaurant) for lunch. I took a picture of the mural as I came out of the restaurant – it featured a lot of the birds we had been seeing.

The post tomorrow will be about what we saw after lunch.

Zooming – January 2019

I have a bigger than usual group of images for the zooming post this month – primarily from a trip from Florida last week. They’ll be more details in posts coming out over the next few weeks. So sit back and enjoy the slide show. It only includes one snow picture!

In the Fall Yard – November 2018

We finally got some vivid leaf colors in the trees behind our house. The usual vibrant yellows of the tulip poplars were almost missing since those leaves turned brown quickly before they even left the big trees this year.  The pines were shedding some needles too.

A rain came, and a lot of leaves fell from the trees within a day or two of achieving good color. I let the leaves dry for a day or two then went out to rake. The temperature was in the 50s and the sky was clear. The trees still had a few leaves…but most were on the ground.

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My plan was to rake leaves that were on grass into areas where deep shade prevented grass from growing. The area between the compost bin and the red maple and then back to the forest is a great location for piles of leaves from the rest of the yard.

I didn’t put any more leaves in the compost bin because they were just raked…not shredded. I discovered that a lot of the pine needles had fallen with the rain, so I got a trash can full of them and put them into the compost. How nice to have pine scented compost!

Red Maple

Our red maple has not been as spectacular this fall as it usually is. The rains and temperatures in September and October kept it green for a very long time and when it did start to turn red most of the leaves looked muddy rather than the rich red they usually display. The leaves began to fall before they were fully red.

The leaves on the tree at the very end of October finally changed to red…and then there was a lot of rain on November 2 and most leaves fell.

Now I’m hoping for some dry days to make the leaves easier to rake into the forest….

At least the maple put on a short show. The tulip poplars seem to be going from green to brown rather than putting on a dazzling yellow show as they do most years.

Cooler Days – Little Fall Color

Here it is the end of September and most of the leaves are still on the trees and green. The ones that have fallen are brown.

Our oak is a good example of that. Looking at the ground it looks like half the leaves have fall but the tree still looks like it has plenty more. (The ruler in the picture is me learning to take better documentary pictures for trees.)

In the back of our house, the red maple has no red leaves. Usually it starts out with a few that show up surrounded by green. But right now it’s still a wall of green although there are leaves on the ground that are brown.

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The tulip poplar usually has some yellow leaves surrounded by green. Some of the leaves look like they might be turning but even the zoomed image looks like a wall of green.

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There are some green tulip poplar leaves that have fallen in recent heavy rains…but overall the tree still has a lot of green leaves attached.

The sycamore has been dropping brown leaves but still has a lot of green ones on the tree. It’s usual the first to drop leaves. This year some are staying on the tree but there are still more green than brown ones.

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We’ve gotten a lot more rain than usual in September (almost 11 inches rather than the historical average of 4.6 inches) and the trees may be impacted by that. There is a lot of mud even in the grassy areas of our yard.

The end of October is generally the time the leaves fly from the trees, so I am still anticipating fall color. It just seems that there are too many brown leaves on the ground already.

May 2018 Tree Status

All the trees are growing well with the warmer temperatures and rain. The sycamore behind our house has lots of small green seed balls among its new leaves; last year a freeze came at the wrong time and the tree only produced one seed ball.

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The tulip poplar is full of flowers as usual. Its leaves are larger than the sycamores at this point. Later in the season the sycamore leaves will be the largest.

The maple had so many seeds early in the month that they made the tree look brownish…but then the were blown off the tree and the maple looks like is normal summer self.

The sweet gums are starting new seed balls as well. They look like spikey globes among the leaves.

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But the celebration of tree blooms this month is the horse chestnut. The tree I photographed is at the end of the drive up to the manor house. The top fell out of the tree several years ago but the part that Is left is blooming profusely. I stopped one day after I finished hiking and leaned out the open window of my car to take some pictures of the flowers.

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Photography through a Window – April 2018

The juncos were in out backyard and frequent visitors to our feeder and birdbath at the beginning of the month…and then they left for their nesting grounds to north and west. We won’t see them here in Maryland until it gets cold again.

The big story of month for our backyard was more about trees than birds. The red maple bloomed and made seeds. I am watching for when the seeds helicopter away from the parent. Of course, some of our backyard birds (cardinals and goldfinches) were in tree for some of the pictures. They like to snack on the tender seeds.

The tulip poplar leaves are unfurling with the pods from last summer still holding a few seeds.

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The sycamore is still looking very much like it has all winter; it is always one of the last to leave out.

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The tree I haven’t photographed yet is the black walnut. I noticed last time I walked around that it had some leaves unfurling but it’s location requires that I walk to it rather than trying to photograph it through a window!

Backyard Walk – April 2018

We had some warmer days late last week and I walked around our backyard to photograph it’s status. The violets are blooming. Sometimes the scent of them wafts through the air. They like the areas where there is lots of leaf mulch.

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The red maple has bloomed, and the samaras (seeds) are forming. Our tree is in further along that the one at Belmont; the microclimate where it is growing is warmer probably.

Do you see the yellow haze under the trees in our forest? That’s spicebush. I think almost all the understory trees are that plant. The others have been killed so heavily browsed by the deer that they haven’t survived. I’m going to make an effort to inspect the spicebush this summer….hoping to find the caterpillars of the spicebush swallowtail butterflies. I am pleased that we have so many food plants for them.